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How Do Phones Use Satellites?

How Do Phones Use Satellites?

Most people around the world carry a cell phone in their pockets, from elementary-aged children to grandmothers and everyone in between. These handheld devices have become an integral part of our modern way of living, offering much more than communication. You might be wondering: what is the technology and signal that keeps these devices connected?

Cellular Networks to Keep You Connected

While typical cell phones can be useful in a variety of situations, there are certain scenarios when a cell service isn’t sufficient. In order for you to have a connection, your phone must be within proximity of cell towers nearby.

Your cell phone carrier offers an extensive network that makes it possible for you to take phone calls, send text messages, and even use data. Whether you are close to home or traveling, there are often options to tap into the local networks – enabling you to use your cell phone in many countries and destinations.

However, the truth is that cell phone signals are different from satellite signals because they use land-based towers. Whenever you are making a call, the signal is going through the tower nearby. If you have only 1 or 2 bars indicating signal, then it means that you are far away from a cell tower.

The Difference Between Cellular and Satellite Capabilities

The biggest difference is that satellite phones don’t require the proximity of a cell tower. Instead, these signals are transmitted through satellites in space and orbiting the Earth. Your phone connects to a satellite, which sends the message to the nearest land-based center and onto the phone that will receive the message.

The advantage of having a satellite phone is evident when you are traveling in remote areas. The earth is a big place and it doesn’t make sense to put cell towers in unpopulated locations. In fact, it would be nearly impossible to provide continuous signal on every part of the planet (especially in remote wilderness or in the middle of a big ocean).

So, satellite phones can be necessary if you need to stay connected and you won’t be near any cell towers. If you know that you will be spending time in secluded areas, then it might make sense to look into your options for satellite phone services.

Cellular and Satellite Connections in the Same Device

For many years, satellite phones have only offered one function: phone calls. Now, newer technology is coming out that allows the function of sending text messages and even accessing the internet in “hotspots.”

The telecommunication industry continues to evolve, especially with the recent announcement of the iPhone 14, which includes both cellular service and a backup option for satellite connectivity in case of an emergency. It will be fascinating to see how the technology improves even more in the future.

Written by Becki Andrus